PORTLAND — A storm socked the northern Oregon Coast Monday, causing the death of an elk hunter and disrupting the lives of residents in the notoriously storm-plagued region.
By the time the storm is expected to diminish this morning, rainfall in the higher elevations could total 4 to 7 inches, forecasters said, while the gale-force winds whipping in excess of 70 miles per hour cause power outages and road closures.
“We’re getting hammered," said Sheriff Andy Long, of Tillamook County.
The elk hunter, 52-year-old Nathan Christensen, of Seattle, died shortly before 7 a.m. when a fir tree crashed on his tent near Nehalem, said Chief Perry Sherbaugh of Nehalem Bay Fire and Rescue.
Two hunters in an adjacent camp heard the tree snap and saw it lying across the tent. They cut it away in an attempt to rescue the man, to no avail.
“They initially called it in as one person trapped in the tent," Long said. “But it killed him instantly."
Christensen had been in a party of hunters, but the others were gone when the tree fell. Long said he was not sure if they left because of the storm or to go looking for elk.
No other storm-related deaths or injuries had been reported. Fallen trees, however, caused other havoc along the coast and inland toward Portland.
Four Seaside firefighters narrowly avoided injury when a tree fell on their fire truck. Fire Chief Joey Daniels said the four had gone to U.S. Highway 26 to help clear a tree. When they got back into the truck, they saw another tree starting to fall.
“They all opened their doors and jumped out," Daniels said.
The truck was a total loss, the chief said, and the department is still totaling the damage to the equipment inside the vehicle.
Elsewhere, a Beaverton teacher was not hurt when a 50-foot tree fell on her car. Kristie Russell told KGW-TV she didn’t have time to avoid the falling tree, so she held on tight and hoped for the best.
The wind gusts, meanwhile, destroyed a barn and partially tore the roof from a mobile home in Tillamook County, said Gordon McCraw, the emergency management director.
In Newport, the wind peeled back the roof of a restaurant.
In Astoria, a semi-truck tipped over while crossing the Astoria-Megler Bridge, causing a major traffic backup. Strong winds prevented crews from removing the truck for several hours.
The northwest Oregon and southwest Washington coast is prone to heavy winds and rain, and storm watching is a popular winter tourist attraction.
Meterologist Kirsten Elson of the National Weather Service said powerful storms are not uncommon even as early as November.
The storms, however, generally include either heavy winds or drenching rains, not both.
“Hopefully this will give everybody a heads up that we’re back into the fall and winter season," Elson said. “And here we go."